DL Fowler's Blog

Lincoln’s Footsteps Part One

My research assistant and I recently set out to trace some of Lincoln’s footsteps during his years in the White House. This post covers highlights of our visits to Richmond VA and Washington DC.

Here’s a pic of the spot on the James River where Lincoln’s boat landed when he arrived in Richmond (accompanied by his son Tad) for his triumphant visit to the Confederacy’s abandoned capital.
  

Here’s the entrance to the Confederate Whitehouse (Jefferson Davis’ home). When young Tad Lincoln stepped across the threshold, it’s likely he sneered at the relatively compact size of the Davis home compared to the spacious Executive Mansion in the nation’s capital.

  

The picture I really wanted was Davis’ desk where Lincoln’s son Tad sat during Lincoln’s triumphant visit, but “no photography please.”
Speaking of pictures, I noticed a portrait of George Washington hanging over Jeff Davis’ mantel and asked if he would have hung it there. The guide replied that both sides of the war revered Washington.
Next we braved a rain storm to make our way to the American Civil War Center. This museum adds an interesting twist. Not only does it give equal treatment to the Northern and Southern perspectives, it gives the same weight to the African point of view (again photography was not allowed). 
Sunday morning we drove down to City Point at the confluence of the Appomattox and James Rivers. Gen. US Grant set up his headquarters here during the final weeks of the war. 

Here’s a photo of the cabin Grant stayed in out on the grounds of the Epps’ plantation so he could be close to his troops, 
  
Instead of staying in the ‘big house’.

  

This is the spot where Lincoln’s boat, the River Queen, docked when the president stayed at the front for two of the war’s three final weeks. One night while sleeping aboard the boat, he dreamt that he had been fatally shot.

  

The massive Union Army presence at City Point must have greatly bolstered Lincoln’s optimism that the war’s end was at hand. 
   
 
On Monday morning we headed to Washington DC for a visit to Lincoln’s Cottage at the Old Soldiers Home where the Lincoln family stayed during the summer months while he was President.

I’m standing outside the gate.
  
Here we met our tour guide Rob. He’s one on the best guides we’ve encountered, and were treated to a treasure trove of insights into Lincoln’s personality. (We also opened the possibility of selling copies of Lincoln Raw in the bookstore there, and Rob agreed to consult with me on scenes in my sequel to Lincoln Raw).
  

The ‘cottage’ was bigger than the Davis residence in Richmond.

  

Unfortunately, inside photos were not allowed, but here are some outside shots.
   
 

A statue reminds us that during summer months, Lincoln often made daily round trips (3 miles each way) on horseback without military escorts. Sometimes he stopped at camps of runaway slaves and joined them in singing spirituals, he always gave poet Walt Whitman a nod as he rode past his home, often he stopped at a military cemetery and wandered alone among the graves.
  

Here are some pictures of the veranda from which he could gaze out over the grounds and at the Capitol.
   
   
  

The cobblestone drainage ditch along the carriage turnaround in front of the cottage. 
  

I suppose it’s only fitting that we should pay a visit to the home where Lincoln died (across the street from Ford Theater).

  

Advertisements

Reading is Why Writers Write.

Posted in Characters, Plots, Reading, Settings by DLFowler on January 7, 2011

Reading. Sometimes it’s being grabbed by the throat and dragged into someone else’s drama. Or crawling into someone else’s skin to experience life in ways we can only dream about.  Other times we get mesmerized by places we never imagined existed.

 Personally, I like stowing away in a character’s head.  I imagine myself parked in the place where all the nerves converge on the brain.  There I can taste salty tears backing up and dripping into a parched, achy throat. Tears of joy, tears of sadness – it doesn’t matter what kind. They taste salty just the same.  Or maybe, the tingle of fine hairs standing up under my collar. How about the weight of my heart dropping onto my diaphragm? Breath stalling in my chest.  Thoughts spinning like a turbine in my head. Squeezing my eyes half-shut as if that would help me read sense into senselessness.

 Hey, I could do this all night long.

Betrayal is like curdled milk in my stomach and a dead friend slung over my back. Good news makes my breath jump out of me and laughs as my body to chases it. Fear seizes up my heart and lungs. My legs won’t move. Joy comes like a wave and sweeps away, but I don’t ask where I’m carried to.

 Okay, you get the point. I love to get into my characters’ heads and feel their skin or any other place that has nerve endings. I’ll also describe a setting, but mainly where it reflects what a character feels. As for drama, I’ll get you there. But, not until my characters romance you a little. Because when you fall in love them (or despise them when appropriate) the drama has more impact.